Shill Gambit

shill gambit

The shill gambit is one type of ad hominem argument where one side dismisses the other’s arguments by alleging that they must be on the payroll of some agency to make the arguments that they are making. This generally shows the weakness of the position that the person who uses the shill gambit is arguing or debating from. Conflicts of interest in science are serious, but where this becomes a fallacy is when no such conflict exists. However, if such a conflict can be demonstrated and it is also demonstrated that it has affected the judgement of the shill, then this is no longer a fallacy.

The most obvious shill gambit is the big pharma one in which those who, for example, support vaccination are often called shills by the conspiracy nutters who believe that to have the views that they have, they must be paid to have those views and post comments online in support of big pharma. A folly of the gambit is the sheer numbers doing it, making it mathematically impossible to pay them all.


  • Podiatrists have been accused of being shills for the footwear industry as supporting them means that podiatrists get more business due to the problems that are allegedly created by footwear. However, many podiatrists promote a barefoot lifestyle and almost all podiatrists are involved in foot health education and promotion campaigns, making a mockery of this shill for financial gain. This is in the same way that dentists promote dental health through campaigns like the fluoridation of water and the conspiracy nutters accuse them of being shills for the government who they think are poisoning the population with fluoride.
  • In debates about barefoot running, some Podiatrists have been accused of being shills for the running shoe companies as those resorting to this argument beleive that running shoes are the cause of injuries and they claim that Podiatrists want runners to keep using running shoes for financial reasons. In reality, there is no evidence for that; plenty of podiatrists promote barefoot running; and due to the high injury rate during the transition from typical running shoes to barefoot running and the lack of any systematic benefits, this created more business for podiatrists, not less. If this was about financial gain, then all podiatrists should be promoting barefoot running.

External Links:
“All anti-barefoot running research is paid for by the running shoe companies” (Running Research Junkie)

Pick Your Logical Fallacy:

Ad hominemBandwagon fallacyCherry PickingFalse AnalogyGalileo Gambit
Appeal to Authority FallacyBurden of Proof FallacyConfirmation BiasFalse BalanceNatural Fallacy
Appeal to ignoranceFalse EquivalenceSlippery Slope FallacyFalse Dilemma or DichotomyNon sequitur
Appeal to Novelty FallacySpecial pleading logical fallacyStraw ManTautologyPost hoc ergo propter hoc
Appeal to Tradition FallacyThe Moving GoalpostWishful Thinking FallacyShill GambitAmbiguity Fallacy
Post Hoc FallacyShoehorningMotivated reasoningCausal IllusionsCognitive Biases
It's Just a TheoryTu quoque fallacy‘It worked for me’ FallacyArgument by AnalogySunk Cost

logical fallacies
Critical Thinking For DummiesAn Illustrated Book of Bad ArgumentsThe Critical Thinker's DictionaryLogically FallaciousNonsense Red Herrings Straw Men and Sacred Cows
Critical Thinking Skills For DummiesAn Illustrated Book of Bad ArgumentsThe Critical Thinker's Dictionary: Biases, Fallacies, and Illusions and What You Can Do About ThemLogically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical FallaciesNonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How We Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language

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